Lotus going from Light to Luxury

  • Thread starter NotThePrez
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What do you think of this plan?

  • Good plan

    Votes: 29 33.0%
  • Bad plan

    Votes: 49 55.7%
  • Don't care

    Votes: 10 11.4%

  • Total voters
    88

NotThePrez

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Yesterday Lotus did something rather... odd. The Malasian-owned British sports car maker sent the entire automotive world a high-res picture of Stonehenge and announced it represented the, "Dawn of a new era." We initially interpreted this to mean that the new Lotus Esprit would show up in Paris. We still think we're right about that part, but Lotus might have been letting a little bit more cat out of bag than they intended.

According to a report from Malaysia, Lotus owner Proton has hired a plethora of ex-Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin employees (including Frank Tuch, the former Director of Quality Management at Porsche) in hopes of transforming the brand away from Toyota-engined track day novelties (hello, Exige!) into a full-fledged Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin fighting luxury, high-performance brand. Of course that entails abandoning Colin Chapman's maxim, "Simplify, then add lightness," in favor of the German mandate to, "Complexify, then add steel." If you think the Italians are any better, realize that every new Ferrari ships with eighteen miles of wiring. But look on the bright side, the new cars (which will have some sort of hybrid-ness cooked in) could draw power from Chapman spinning his grave.

As we speculated yesterday, the new Esprit will need something resembling a V8 engine (at least) to not only fill the shoes of the old, long-loved Esprit, but also to compete with the world's best luxury/performance machers. Luckily for both Lotus and Lotus fans, engine-supplier Toyota has just such a motor in the form of the IS F's 416 horsepower, 371 pound-feet or torque 5.0-liter V8. Of course, if you want to play in the stratosphere with the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and/or Aston Martin these days, you're going to need at least 500 horsepower. But where would Lotus get an engine like that?

According to the report, the Lexus LFA's 552 hp, 9,000 rpm 4.8-liter V10 could be made available for Esprit duty, though it might be slightly detuned. Still, an aluminum and composite V10 is an aluminum and composite V10. While that might sound odd at first blush, Toyota (no doubt) spent a sick amount of yen coming up with the LFA's V10, but they're only building 500 (or so) LFAs. So why not recoup the pricey development costs elsewhere? Like say in a Lotus range-topper? The question then becomes: Does the world want a 500+ horsepower Lotus dolled up with enough electronic whizbangery to compete with Europe's finest? Only time and the marketplace will tell.

Source: Autoblog

Poll added out of simple curiosity
 
Making small-volume sportscars aimed at enthusiasts is not a sustainable business practice. The Esprit was always the heavier tourer (in comparison with other lightweight Lotus offerings) and I'm expecting the next version of the car to be in the same formula. I don't see this being a harmful vehicle to the Lotus image as it would reinvigorate the name at the higher echelons of the sports car market while shining light on the more affordable Elise and Evora offerings for those who can't pony up the 6 figures for the new Esprit.

If a Lotus is gaining weight, I'd rather it be the 450hp super car than the 180hp track car.
 
39,072
The probability that the next Esprit will end up with the 1LR-GUE is so unlikely that it is in the negatives. Not only would Toyota never sell it (can you imagine Ferrari selling engines to, say, GM, for use in the Corvette?), but Lotus very likely couldn't afford it.


My guess is that they will opt for a Toyota V8 with some form of forced induction added. Either the old 3UZ-FE from the Lexus SC430 or the current 1UR-FE found in the Tundra. Possibly even the direct injection 1UR-FSE from the Lexus LS460. Maybe the 2UR-GSE from the Lexus IS-F, but I find that doubtful as well.
 
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homeforsummer

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As with Porsche who build stuff like the Cayenne as a cash cow allowing them to build crazy 911s, I don't mind Lotus veering down that street as long as they continue building stuff like the Elise. People get way to precious about a "brand's values" not realising that half the brands we love today wouldn't be there if they hadn't branched out at some stage and catered for the masses.
 

niky

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Every "Tuned by Lotus" GM and Proton product has helped finance their operations and has allowed them to build "real" Lotuses. I'm not particularly worried about too much brand dilution if they went out and produced bigger cars than the Elise/Exige.

I'm still waiting for them to actually produce the Lotus minivan, though. :D
 

Philly

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Definitely a good idea. If they want to sell any, they have to pack at least some kinds of creature comforts into the car. There won't be that much of a market for super expensive track day cars. And that market already has a lot of options that are basically stripped out versions of existing "Ferrari, 911, Aston" types. I think it'd be great to see another British car in that class.

Plus, who's stopping them from building a stripped out, track version of this product? That would be pretty Lotus, wouldn't it?

And is Toyota power a definitive? I'm sure Lotus could find some pretty sweet V8s from somebody else.
 

Paulie

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I don't think it's the end of all lightweight Lotuses, it'll probably mean adding a few models with more luxury orientated pretences. Then again, the Evora already fits in with this product plan. I hope it means a return for the Carlton!
 

homeforsummer

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I was reading a columnist the other day talking about Lotus' product expansion and he was musing what it would be like if Lotus applied the Elise philosophy to a small sports sedan, say 3-Series sized. Imagine Lotus doing a circa-1000kg, front engined, rear drive family car with typical Lotus road manners...
 
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Ardius_
As has been said, Lotus isn't just about lightweight stuff and they kind of need to do this to survive.
Enzo Ferrari once said that only proper cars have their engines at the front...is anyone crying about how the past few decades of Ferrari's have almost always been mid-engined?
Same applies to Lotus, as long as they keep some lightweight cars in their range I don't have a big problem with this.

Another way of putting it is - would Colin Chapman do it? I think its easy to say yes, he wasn't an idiot.

I'm very happy with the directions that Aston Martin, Jaguar and Lotus are being taken. They all look like they have far more secure futures than they did 10 years ago.
 

TheCracker

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I was reading a columnist the other day talking about Lotus' product expansion and he was musing what it would be like if Lotus applied the Elise philosophy to a small sports sedan, say 3-Series sized. Imagine Lotus doing a circa-1000kg, front engined, rear drive family car with typical Lotus road manners...

Like the Sunbeam Lotus?
 
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Ardius_
Also, on the question of engines and Toyota's involvement, interestingly David Richards' Prodrive group has been linked with a WRC entry with Toyota. Why is this interesting? Well, why are Toyota going to an external company to run its team when it still has a facility in Cologne? Answer - perhaps Aston Martin are seeking to use the LFA V10 and/or seeking an engine supplier for their Le Mans team next year with the new regulations and to replace their old V12.

Perhaps this would lead to Lotus losing out on Toyota engines, or maybe it would make it more likely, I don't know. I find it interesting Toyota are being linked with engine supply deals with different companies though.

David Richards really gets about though :lol:. I seem be coming across soooo many rumours involving him every year.
 
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The first thing that hit my mind when i read the opening paragraph was "Huh...I smell a new-era Lotus Carlton in the works". Is that odd? Or almost expected?
 

homeforsummer

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Like the Sunbeam Lotus?

A little, though that was a Sunbeam fettled by Lotus rather than a ground-up Lotus design. I'm talking about a proper Lotus sedan, bonded ally chassis, probably carbon-fibre or ally bodied, yet standards of trim at least of Evora level. Would be absolutely epic.
 

YSSMAN

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I'm indifferent. The big Esprit and Evora can stand to be a little more luxurious than the standard Elise or Exige. Those lower cars are known for their spartan interiors and batty performance characteristics, and they should stay that way. Still, I thought the way the Evora felt was a nice balance between luxury and weight-conscious sporty design. Although the aluminum on the dash was a little odd. Maybe it was just the car I was in?
 
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A good plan as long as they retain their character across thier lineup. Case in point the Elan. The first generation was an FR and classic looks. The second generation was a failure to become with front wheel drive. Personally I never have liked front wheel drive cars mainly because of changing CV halfshafts when they fail and that 2nd gen Elan is no different.
 
A good plan as long as they retain their character across thier lineup. Case in point the Elan. The first generation was an FR and classic looks. The second generation was a failure to become with front wheel drive. Personally I never have liked front wheel drive cars mainly because of changing CV halfshafts when they fail and that 2nd gen Elan is no different.

It's been called the best front-drive car ever created. Many times by many different people.
 

niky

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A good plan as long as they retain their character across thier lineup. Case in point the Elan. The first generation was an FR and classic looks. The second generation was a failure to become with front wheel drive. Personally I never have liked front wheel drive cars mainly because of changing CV halfshafts when they fail and that 2nd gen Elan is no different.

Too bad everything but the Mustang now has IRS, eh? All those toasted CV joints... :lol:

-

The second generation Elan was faster, more stable and more capable than the old car. Unfortunately, people simply couldn't see past the front-wheel drive at the incredibly sophisticated aluminum-backboned, all-double-wishbone sportscar underneath. Didn't help, either that it cost so much more than the Isuzu Impulse it shared engines with.
 
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Too bad everything but the Mustang now has IRS, eh? All those toasted CV joints... :lol:

Only 1999 and 2001-2004 SVT Cobras have IRS. The current Mustangs are stuck with the solid axle. Compared to the competition both Camaro and the Challenger now have IRS.
 

niky

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Ironic...

Only 1999 and 2001-2004 SVT Cobras have IRS. The current Mustangs are stuck with the solid axle. Compared to the competition both Camaro and the Challenger now have IRS.

I said:

Too bad everything but the Mustang now has IRS, eh? All those toasted CV joints... :lol:

Everything but the Mustang. Everything except the Mustang. Everything that isn't a Mustang. Everything that does not bear a Mustang nameplate (with a single rear wheel, the P51 Mustang doesn't have IRS, either).

Just to be clear. :lol:
 
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If dilution is the only way to pump out the light Elise/Exige lines, then so be it. That said, the thing I dislike about Lotuses is that owners must concede that their sleek, low-slung, sporty track cars are powered by... err, a Toyota engine... If this business manouvre brings them the funds necessary to begin some development on their own engine lines, then I'll be happy.
 

Neal

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Lotus have produced "executive" cars before with the Elite/Eclat/Excel (1974 - 1992) so it's nothing new for them to do it again. My dad has owned a 1979 Elite since the early 80s and whilst it’s not the most desirable car ever made it’s still great. Its original 4-pot engine was a bit asthmatic though so over an 18 month period he replaced it with a 3.6 injected Rover V8 and made his own plenum chamber, to avoid the power bulge in the bonnet, and exhaust manifolds out of stainless as well as replacing the original chassis and running gear with an Excel chassis including the Toyota Supra brakes…they’ve been raiding their parts bin for quite a while! Amongst other things he also replaced the Elite’s boxy black bumpers with moulded Excel ones and fitted a Riviera roof but had a glass panel made instead of the black leather-look plastic one. He did a pretty good job as it was valued for £20K when he’d finished when a mint standard Elite would be worth £6K…I digress!

The Elise lineage was great for the company, and no doubt saved them from extinction, but it has pigeon holed them as a small volume uncompromising car manufacturer. While this is great for car nuts it isn't so great for the kind of people who would normally buy a Porsche or Jag XK and is stopping them selling large numbers and seriously restricting their income. As an example McLaren are starting with the mid-range MP4-12C rather than an F1 replacement to sell bigger numbers and help build the company up, Lotus needs to do the same.

Lotus tested the more luxury market with the Elise based new Europa which was very successful although it was too compromised due to the Elise underpinnings. The Evora is a much better and more accomplished car and proves Lotus have the skill and resource to produce a car that can match a Boxster but they really need to produce something that can compete with 911 and Jag XK buyers.

Whilst I agree the Toyota engine in the Evora isn't very desirable it is only the Avensis gearbox that has drawn criticism. For a more expensive car they could use the 5L V8 from the Lexus IS F and for a flagship supercar they may even get to use the V10 from the LFA! It is unbelievably expensive to develop an engine and get it approved for sale worldwide so if there are alternatives available it makes sense to use them with your own tune if need be.

Lotus have always been about lightweight engineering so I don't see why that will change now, can't there be another option on the poll of "light and Luxury"?
 
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Ardius_
If dilution is the only way to pump out the light Elise/Exige lines, then so be it. That said, the thing I dislike about Lotuses is that owners must concede that their sleek, low-slung, sporty track cars are powered by... err, a Toyota engine... If this business manouvre brings them the funds necessary to begin some development on their own engine lines, then I'll be happy.

Lotus have always used other people's engines. It would be more un-Lotus-like to have their own.

What is so wrong about a Toyota engine? It does everything the a Lotus engines needs - decent power, reliable, lightweight (I'm assuming). I would only ask on the engine front for a new Cosworth powered model, but really I see nothing wrong with Toyota power.
 

niky

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The 1.8, not such a big issue.

The V6? Mhmmm... while reports all indicate performance is enough, the relative lack of revs compared to other naturally aspirated sportscars in the segment kinda sucks. While they've done well to get extra revs out of the engine, it's still a different matter entirely when you have an engine that's already been built to rev its nuts off (say... like a BMW or audi 4-liter V8). I guess 7k rpm isn't bad... but more is always better. When you've got another 1000 or so rpm to use, the entire character of the driving experience changes. You rely less on torque and really wring out each gear. You go deeper and deeper into the pedal and rev range when attacking a tasty piece of road or track. Those extra rpms make a car feel special.

A great car should have a great engine. That Toyota V6... in this application... is a good one... but not a great one.

Of course, since everyone is going turbo nowadays, sayonara screamers... maybe... but there is hope... the new McLaren MP412C has a crazy high 8500 rpm redline... despite being a twin-turbo V8. :nervous:
 
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Has a Lotus roadcar ever had a brilliant engine? I thought generally the Lotus philosophy is basically just shed weight and the engine is just the thing that pushes/pulls the car. As long as the engine does its job, Lotus do the rest of the performance work.
I imagine the Toyota engines are also cheap which factors in too.
 
The 1.8, not such a big issue.

The 2ZZ-GTE 1.8L Toyota no longer passes European emissions so Elise, Elise SC, street-spec 2-Eleven & Exige S will be discontinued after a short run of special edition MY2011 cars. This leaves the track 2-Eleven and Elise S in the European market alongside the Evora until more models are unveiled.
 

Neal

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Autoexpress have apparently been informed that a few new Lotus concepts will be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show "including a new Esprit, two new front-engined GT cars and a new roadster"

Assuming the GT cars are going to be the new luxury models I wouldn't be at all surprised if they resurrected the Elite, Eclat or Excel names in a 2 + 2 form.
 

homeforsummer

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The 2ZZ-GTE 1.8L Toyota no longer passes European emissions so Elise, Elise SC, street-spec 2-Eleven & Exige S will be discontinued after a short run of special edition MY2011 cars. This leaves the track 2-Eleven and Elise S in the European market alongside the Evora until more models are unveiled.

What about the new 1.6 in the Elise S? I'd expect that passes regs, as it's the same one used in the current Auris. Wouldn't make sense to bring out a brand new model with an engine at the end of it's life cycle...

Also, I don't see the problem with Toyota engines either. Ardius is right, the engine in a Lotus is just a means to an end, essentially. The original Europa used a pretty hopeless Renault engine, and it didn't stop the car from being brilliant. Ditto the Elise S1 and its Rover K-Series 1.8. Nothing too special about that, and only about 118bhp. Did make a decent sound I guess, which adds to the experience. And now that the Chinese are making a developed version of the K-Series, I don't think owners will have any trouble getting spares even though Rover doesn't exist any more.

The Toyota 1.8s in the Elise line at the moment are pretty good engines for the job really. Smooth, revvy, fairly light and very reliable. The relative lack of torque doesn't even slightly matter because they're pushing around a car a good 100kg lighter than the MR2 and 200kg lighter than the Celica the units were first found in.

Plus, bolt on a supercharger and you get mental performance in the Exige.